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There are over 100 sales force automation (SFA) software systems on the market. And these systems come in all flavors: solutions for small businesses, solutions for large enterprises, solutions for companies that sell through channel partners, and solutions for specific industries, to name a few. We’ve written this buyer’s guide to not only provide a definition of SFA software, but also to provide a lay of the land for software buyers who are trying to make sense of this complex market.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
“Coffee is for closers,” but SFA promises to help the entire team close more deals. Sales software helps companies manage their reps and their activities. At the individual level, sales automation software helps reps manage accounts, leads, opportunities, and customer interactions. Meanwhile, it helps management generate more accurate forecasts and gain better insight into opportunities.
Core CRM sales software functionality includes contact management, lead management, opportunity management, pipeline management, forecasting, and territory management. More advanced systems will include modules for proposal and quote generation, order management, marketing automation, collateral management, scripting, computer telephony integration and social media integration.
Best-of-breed sales database software products such as Sage ACT! or Salesforce.com are often implemented as a completely stand alone system or in conjunction with marketing automation and lead management software. Other buyers choose to implement SFA software as part of a complete customer relationship management (CRM) suite, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Finally, SFA can also be implemented as part of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite like Oracle or SAP. Which strategy you pursue will largely depend on your need for the SFA system to share data with other customer management or ERP systems, as well as whether the SFA from your existing vendors addresses your current company needs.
Before evaluating sales force automation systems, you’ll need to assess what kind of buyer you are. We believe 90%+ of buyers fall into one of the following categories:
While the sales force CRM landscape is highly fragmented and may at first appear confusing, the available programs are differentiated by their appeal to the different buyer types.
|This type of buyer...||Should evaluate these systems|
|Direct buyer||Salesforce.com, Sage Act, Microsoft Dynamics CRM|
|Indirect buyer||Oracle CRM OnDemand, SAP|
|Enterprise buyer||Oracle CRM, SAP, Salesforce.com|
|Small business CRM buyer||Sage Act, Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, Highrise|
These market trends should be considered as you perform a sales force automation software comparison and select a product and vendor.
An SFA tool must benefit both managers and the reps. The following are the minimum benefits that should be realized with a successful implementation:
As with all technology, there are potential issues with sales contact management software as well. First and foremost is the risk of compromising client privacy, particularly if it's implemented on easy-to-lose (or steal) mobile devices. This can be mitigated through the use of proper security procedures and encryption technology. A second issue is employee resistance to adoption; some people find the tools too difficult, too limiting, or too intrusive. This is generally a training issue. The third issue is a management issue; SFA tools drastically increase what can be measured and managed but that does not mean that everything should be measured or managed. The granularity of management required varies from organization to organization and even from manager to manager and representative to representative.
In the early days of sales force software, high upfront costs and extensive deployment times barred many companies from getting involved. But times have changed. A whole new class of buyers has emerged thanks to the rising number of SFA companies offering SaaS and cloud-based solutions. Developers have also rolled out new mobile sales force automation tools to better engage field agents. And marketing teams increasingly integrate their lead generation programs with sales force management systems.
To keep up with the rising number of buyers, CRM SFA makers need to constantly release updates and new competitive differentiators. This includes new applications for training, forecasting, lead management and more. Below are recent announcements from the top four sales software developers.
LeadMaster Lead Management - LeadMaster now distributes its sales lead management software through Tech Data Corp. thanks to an agreement the companies formed on January 23. Tech Data runs a network of more than 60,000 value-added resellers who will sell LeadMaster-branded solutions. Their experts will also provide consulting and support for clients implementing LeadMaster systems. The company offers a suite of customizable SaaS solutions for salesforces to track and convert leads.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM - Microsoft Corp. announced on February 7 a service update to its Microsoft Dynamics CRM offerings. The enhancements went live in the second quarter and came with changes to mobile services. Officials said users can now access the system virtually on Windows Phone 7, the iPad, iPhones, Android and Blackberry devices. The service is delivered through the company’s new cloud-based, cross platform. It costs $30 per user, per month for up to three devices each.
Sage North America - Sage announced on April 19 several new mobile and e-marketing capabilities for Sage ACT! sales management system users. The new app-style product turns your Android, iPhone or iPad into a virtual office. Users can access contacts, activities and calendars from anywhere they use their device. The company at the same time released Sage ACT! Premium Mobile and Sage E-marketing for ACT!. Both make improvements to mobile operations, including added workgroup functionality and email marketing.
Maximizer CRM - On March 8, Maximizer released CRM 12 Entrepreneur Edition. Officials said the offering provides enhanced contact management capabilities for both small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Similar to offerings for larger firms, the Entrepreneur edition provides tools for opportunity management, Outlook integration, scheduling, reporting and document management. The platform also improves time management, social media capabilities and pipeline analysis.
We're able to offer this service to buyers for free, because software vendors pay us on a "pay-per-lead" basis. Buyers get great advice. Sellers get great referrals.